Rare and unique film footage from Coronado’s past has just been discovered. A Coronado Historical Association member recently shared with us footage of a family film that was digitized from 16 mm film. Though grainy due to age, the film features some extraordinary and ordinary Coronado scenes. The film dates to the 1930s.

On the extraordinary side, the film includes footage of an airship that can be seen flying over Coronado buildings. The most famous airship visit to Coronado was the ill-fated USS Shenandoah (ZR-1). You can read more about the Shenandoah and her famous North Island stop in the November 2018 issue of History Matters and in the February 2019 issue of History Matters. The footage in this film is most likely not of the Shenandoah, as it met its tragic end in 1925.

Another interesting and more familiar sight in the film is the removal of a large tree from someone’s property. Coronado has had a long history with the planting and removal of trees, especially mid-century when a lot of the first plantings by the Coronado Beach Company were becoming mature. Many residents complained about the trees asking for requests for removal by the City. The City discouraged and even denied many of these requests: “Coronado’s home-like atmosphere is created, the commissioners explained, by the fine old trees that line its streets, and fill its parks”(Coronado Journal, 1946). Eventually, some residents got their way and several trees came down, like the one in the film. 

Later in the film, crowds can be seen gathering along the water's edge to watch seaplanes touch down. Can you identify any of the planes in the film? Let us know by emailing our Curator of Collections, Vickie Stone, at vstone@coronadohistory.org. In the meantime, you can learn more about Coronado’s seaplane history by reading this article by Bruce Linder. 

One other fun event that the film captures is the 1938 parade for the Hotel Del Coronado’s 50th Anniversary. The event was a community-wide celebration where attendees dressed up in ‘80s clothes (the 1880s that is!). If you want to learn more about the Hotel’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, you can browse numerous photos of the parade in CHA’s historic photograph collection or read historic newspaper articles about the anniversary celebrations from the Coronado Journal and Coronado Citizen

Throughout the film, sweet family scenes can be seen and a trip to what appears to be the San Diego Zoo. 

We hope you enjoy this rare and unique glimpse into Coronado’s past!

*Update 3/30/2020: Joshua Dana, CHS Senior and CHA Volunteer who specializes in Coronado film history, had this note to say about the film: "The film briefly begins in black and white before cutting to color. Kodak released color Kodachrome film specifically for 16mm film in 1935, which is also the year that a massive windstorm swept Coronado, causing many trees to fall.  The film begins in 1932 or 1934 (the Macon and Akron airships were exactly identical so it makes it impossible to differentiate them). The seaplane shots are from 1937 because of the designation on the side of the plane (17 P 1) meaning the 17th Patrol Squadron, which was briefly incarnated for several months at North Island that year."